Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson today extended his congratulations to the State Library of Kansas Talking Books Division and its six Talking Book Centers as they mark the anniversary of free audio library services for the blind.
Governor Parkinson noted the federal Pratt-Smoot Act, enacted on March 3, 1931, established free library services for blind adults, administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in the Library of Congress. Kansas was not one of the original 19 libraries created, although services were offered Kansans many years through the St. Louis Library and the School for the Blind Library in Kansas City, Ks.
In 1971 the Kansas network serving the print-impaired was established. Today this program is a division of the State Library of Kansas, serving more than 7,000 patrons through a network of six local service centers, located in Emporia, Norton, Great Bend, Manhattan, Topeka, and Wichita.
“I am proud that Kansas has such a strong, cooperative network of libraries serving those with vision, physical and hearing impairments. I am honored to recognize libraries for nearly 80 years of outstanding service,” Parkinson said. “More than 40,000 Kansans are eligible for this service and we are working hard to reach more patrons and to keep them connected with their great love of reading. More than 100,000 titles are available including books, magazines, newspapers, and descriptive videos.”
Interim state librarian Marc Galbraith added, “This is a new and exciting time for the program as the system has moved to digital recordings and digital players in late 2009. It’s critical that the print-impaired community have access to the same technological, educational and entertainment opportunities as their sighted friends.”
In 1933 when recordings were finally being distributed to the blind, a durable record was perfected so a book of 60,000 words could be contained on eight or nine double-faced 12-inch records. A turntable ran at 33-1/3 revolutions per minute, which permitted 30-minutes of reading time on each record. Early recorded titles included: the Declaration of Independence; the Constitution of the United States; Washington’s Farewell Address; Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; several of Shakespeare’s plays; and popular authors such as Rudyard Kipling. Talking books were added for children in 1952, and juveniles in 1962. Analog recordings (cassettes and cassette players) became popular in 1969, with digital players expected to enter the market in late 2008.
“Because reading is more than a visual experience”, the Kansas Talking Book Library network provides library resources in specialized formats free-of-charge to Kansans unable to use standard print. For additional information, call toll-free 1-800-362-0699 or visit www.kslib.info/talking/